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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER
Donne's poems, however, raise a far more interesting personal problem. Some of them show, to put it gently, a remarkable frankness. It is altogether surprising that he thought of printing, if not publishing, them at a period when he was aspiring to preferment in the Church. Certainly, as Mr. Gosse points out, they were calculated to make Archbishop Abbot's hair stand on end, and would be only too much to the taste of the courtiers of James I. It is strange, though characteristic, that Donne, even in his saintly days, could not find it in his heart to destroy, though he could not make up his mind to publish. The question arises, how far they represent genuine autobiography? Mr. Gosse holds that they tell a true story of an intrigue with a married woman, which, after a year, ended with a bitter quarrel and curses upon the now hated mistress. If Donne were as generally interesting as Shakespeare, his poems might be interpreted as variously as Shakespeare's sonnets. But I cannot think that the foundation of fact, if any existed, is really ascertainable. One remark
belonged therefore to the aristocracy of the literary world, and looked down upon the rabble of unlearned scribblers and playwrights with hands subdued to what they worked in.